Opinions sought on two road projects

Improvements to U.S. 40, Falls Road to be topics of meetings this week

`Want to get community input'

January 21, 2002|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Baltimore-area residents will have a chance this week to influence two future state highway projects: one on Falls Road and the other on U.S. 40.

Tomorrow, the Greater Falls Road Neighborhood Task Force will meet in Mount Washington with a representative of the State Highway Administration to discuss a plan to repave Falls Road from north of the city line to just south of Old Court Road.

The task force, made up of more than 28 community organizations and businesses, has been working for two years with state, county and city officials to improve transportation in the area.

"Change is inevitable," said task force co-Chairwoman Mildred Thomas. With economic revitalization bringing more people and businesses to the area, "we want people to be able to enjoy it."

The group would like to see more people get out of their cars, Thomas said. That could require better sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, bicycle lanes, improved drainage, new street markings, better access to light rail and more green space.

The repaving project, slated to begin in spring 2003 and expected to cost between $800,000 and $1.2 million, could include some of the things the task force hopes for, depending on how much money is available, said Ed Bokman, project manager for the State Highway Administration.

But improvements beyond the curb could fall under a different state transportation program, the Neighborhood Conservation Project, part of the state's Smart Growth initiative to improve established neighborhoods. At the meeting, Bokman hopes to recruit Falls Road task force members to join a smaller group to discuss neighborhood conservation issues with experts from his office.

"We want to get community input and see what they want for the long term," Bokman said. "If you live there, you know what the issues are."

Meanwhile, a community transportation task force hoping to tap into the Neighborhood Conservation Project will present its ideas for improving U.S. 40 at a public meeting Thursday in Catonsville.

The stretch of U.S. 40 between Athol Avenue and Interstate 695 is busy, and includes commercial sections and residential areas. Slowing traffic is a main concern of the task force, which is proposing new ramps to replace the wide, looping ones now in place. New landscaping for the medians also is on the drawing board, intended to make the area more attractive, to stop motorists from driving across medians and to make crossing the road safer.

"It will be beautiful for the people coming from the county," said Louise Massey, a member of the Edmondson Village Community Association, "but I would like to see more changes past the city line."

It is unknown when any construction besides the Falls Road repaving might begin, said Fran Ward, an SHA spokeswoman. After the community approves concepts for the neighborhood conservation projects, the administration must get funding for a design phase to work out the details. Then the construction needs to be funded and planned.

But building community support early is key to a successful project, Ward said. "Programs do not move forward until everyone is on board."

The Falls Road Task Force meeting will be at 7 p.m. tomorrow at a private residence at 1112 Brynmawr Road in Mount Washington. The U.S. 40 public meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at Christian Temple, 5820 Edmondson Ave., Catonsville.

Information: Ed Bokman, 410- 321-2853.

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